TOPEKA, Kan. (KANSAS REFLECTOR) – House Republicans failed Thursday to gather sufficient support for a constitutional amendment that could provide legislators with new oversight of the executive branch.
The resolution, if passed by a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers and approved by a popular vote of Kansans, would add a new section to the state constitution providing the Legislature the authority to set and revoke new rules within state agencies housed in the executive branch.
On Wednesday, the House gave the resolution preliminary approval by a simple majority, but the measure failed Thursday with 80 in favor and 33 against, short of the 84 votes needed.
“There is already a thorough review process for our rules and regulations, including a review by the Attorney General to ensure that the agency has not exceeded its statutory authority,” said Rep. Boog Highberger, D-Lawrence. “This resolution is just more election year grandstanding.”
Rep. Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa, flipped his vote in a procedural move to allow the House to reconsider the amendment before the end of the next day of floor action, which will be Monday. The House also passed a series of military remembrance bills.
According to reporting from the Topeka-Capital Journal, House Speaker Ron Ryckman said there was a deal with Democrats to ensure the necessary votes, but they flipped unexpectedly. If passed by the Legislature, the constitutional amendment would be on the general election ballot in 2022.
Republicans are motivated primarily by a recent decision by the Kansas Department of Labor to add or amend six regulations regarding workers’ compensation. Currently, the Legislature can adopt only a concurrent resolution expressing concern or requesting the revocation of a regulation.
“We are the lawmaking body,” said Rep. Eric Smith, a Burlington Republican. “We have the absolute obligation that when bureaucracies pass rules and regulations that have the same power and standing of law, we must be able to address them. It is our duty to the people we represent.”
Representatives also approved without opposition a series of bills authorizing memorials, license plates and highway renamings in honor of Kansans who served in the U.S. military.
House Bill 2540 allows the construction on Statehouse grounds of a permanent memorial honoring the immediate families of those who lost their lives in the line of duty. The Gold Star Family monument would be added to the Veteran’s Walk outside the Capitol building in Topeka and be entirely paid for through donations and private funds.
“It’ll be a beautiful memorial that we can all be proud of,” said Rep. Virgil Weigel, a Topeka Democrat, adding that this bill resonated on a personal level for him. “My mother is a Gold Star family member. Her youngest brother was killed in action in World War Two, so it means a little bit more to me.”
A federal law is pending that will establish a gold star recognition day in September, and the memorial would be completed before then. The Senate passed a similar bill earlier this month.
House members gave their stamp of approval to a pair of bills dedicating portions of two state highways after Kansas soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. House Bill 2478 designates part of U.S. Highway 166 as the SGT Evan S Parker memorial highway, and House Bill 2458 designates part of U.S. Highway 56 as the PFC Shane Austin memorial highway.
“(We) introduced House Bill 2458 to honor this young hero, who through his heroism demonstrated many of the ideals that the people of Kansas are known for,” said Rep. Ken Collin, R-Mulberry. “Patriotism, loyalty and duty are just a few.”
The bills now go to the Senate for final approval, as will two bills authorizing distinctive license plates — one for those who received a Silver Star medal and one for those who received a Bronze Star medal.
Rep. Timothy Johnson, R-Bonner Springs, testified in support of the bills on behalf of his two sons who served in the Middle East and received the Bronze Star medal.
“Previously all we had were little stickers that would go up in the corner. Clearly not fitting for the work that these people have done,” Johnson said. “Sacrifice without remembrance is meaningless.”
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